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In Memory

George M Nelson

George Marius Nelson, the third President of Alyeska PIpeline Service Company, passed away on February 25, 2015 in Santa Rosa, CA.


There was not a published obituary for George Nelson   Larry Motschenbacher

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04/30/15 10:39 AM #1    

Larry Motschenbacher

In wandering the internet, I came across in an article in the newsletter of a church in Colorado and thought I would share it. Larry

Take 2 Aspirin, Say Your Prayers, and Do the Best You Can 

In 1989, seven major oil companies owned the Trans Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS), the 800-mile-long pipeline that crosses the entire state of Alaska and delivers roughly 20% of all the petroleum crude oil that we consume here in the United States each year. An operating entity, “Alyeska Pipeline Service Company,” was established by these companies to maintain and operate the pipeline, it’s pump stations, and the marine terminal in Valdez, Alaska.

George Nelson, the president of Alyeska was a well-liked member of the community, active in his church, known for his hobby of growing flowers, and respected by his employees. But, all that changed on Good Friday, 1990, at Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound. The name, Exxon Valdez, became a household word, tinged with grief, anger, frustration and guilt. The largest, most devastating crude oil spill in United States history to that time changed many lives and many institutions, suddenly and savagely.

George Nelson was expected to provide initial cleanup response and “take care of these things,” He was vilified by the press, politicians, the public, environmental activists, and anyone else who happened to have a particular ax to grind. His life, the lives of his employees, the lives of anyone related to the oil industry changed dramatically that day. We all were the villains! I recall being asked to remove the parking permit, containing the company logo, from my car’s window because several oil company employees’ cars had been vandalized in local parking lots.

One Monday, George received a letter from one of the members of his church. The letter read, “I saw you last night on the television coverage of the congressional hearing. You looked terrible, your health is deteriorating. I hate what has happened, I hate that Alyeska couldn’t just clean the spill up, but I don’t hate you. You are a wonderful person, and I think you are letting all this become too personal. You didn’t wreck that tanker and now you have a job to do. But, I’m concerned about your health, so I have a prescription for you. Take 2 aspirin, say your prayers, and do the best you can.”

George was so moved by the letter from his friend that he circulated the letter to Alyeska employees, and the words became a slogan for the entire organization. George even had buttons made and gave them to all the members of the team working on the new oil spill prevention and response plan. I was a part of that team! I still have the button. “Take 2 aspirin, say your prayers, and do the best you can.”

From The Chronicle, by Rev. Les Ludlam, Apr. 2011

05/04/15 06:18 PM #2    

Mike Smulski

I was at PS 1 and Nelson came in by heilocopter, not through the gate. The guard walked over and asked him for his badge so he could check him in.

Nelson got all puffed up with "you know who I am!!!"

Guard replied "yes sir, but I still need to see your badge." (needed in case of a fire, explosion, etc.)

Nelson takes his badge out and flings it at the guard. It lands on the ground face up. Guard goes over, looks at it, writes down the badge number, says "thank you sir." and walks away.

Retired Trooper, took a lot more crap than that in his career.

05/07/15 06:11 AM #3    

Bill Howitt

When George Nelson retired (I think it was 1990) we had a pretty big send off at the Captain Cook.  He had planned to retire to Bellingham, WA and open a nursery.  We on the pipeline decided to get him a special retirement gift to start him off....a "breeding" pair of scrawny black spruce from the pipeline ROW near Pump 7 as I recall.  He was deeply moved...in some way.  Don't know what ever happened to those little trees.

05/08/15 11:19 AM #4    

Joe Riordan

My most memorable event came during the middle of the night in 1985 (I think) when the RGV-45 appeared to be sheared since the indicator rod attached to the top of the rising stem showed the valve was full open but we knew the valve to be closed so we thought the valve stem was broken and we were desperate to reach the valve manufacturer- WKM.  So we contacted the valve rep at his home in Houston and his wife answered.  She informed us the couple were in the midst of a move across Houston and he was living in the new home without a phone.  Joe Willing convinced the wife that this was an emergency with TAPS down.  She agreed to drive across Houston at 3 am and wake her husband up and get him to a pay phone to call the war room.  I was sitting in the war room at the pllanning table when the phone in the center rang and Goerge Nelson picked it up.  He said "hello? No, No, No" and then slammed down the phone.  We all looked at him in shock and he exclaimed "Now the media knows about it!  That was some radio station WKM in Houston!"  Our chorus response was "No!  That's the guy we're trying to reach!  That's the valve rep!"  George replied "Jeees all I could think of was that TV show WKRP in Cincinnati."  Fortunately the valve rep called back and we apologized for the night cleaner who previously picked up the phone.  Privately we roared.....

05/12/15 07:25 AM #5    

Bill Howitt

Thanks for remembering that RGV 45 WKM incident Joe.  It was a great one.

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